The future of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class ute has been placed in doubt for the third time this year, with joint venture partner Nissan telling international media at the Tokyo motor show: “We are doing our best to help them and that’s about it”.
When Nissan’s global boss of utes and vans, Francois Bailley, was asked if weaker than expected sales of the X-Class had an impact on the production costs of the Navara – because fewer parts than forecast were being ordered – he said: “Mercedes did their first pick-up truck with us, I think it’s a very interesting product.
"They have their own objective, their own customers and so on. We are doing our best to help them and that’s about it. It’s for them to manage to the best of their ability.”
When asked in a follow-up question what the future holds for the X-Class, Mr Bailley said: “I would need to ask you to check with them. It’s their decision to see what is their portfolio going forward.”
Probed if plans for a next generation X-Class had been scrapped, Mr Bailley said: “It’s for them to tell us what they want to do.”
This has been interpreted by industry observers as a sign Mercedes-Benz has not committed to a successor to the X-Class and, indeed, the current model may bow out early.
In July this year a report out of Europe, published by respected industry journal Automotive News, cited unnamed but well-informed sources claiming the X-Class ute “is to be dropped” as the company “seeks to reduce costs amid profit warnings”.
CarAdvice contacted Mercedes-Benz Australia to comment on the roundtable discussion from the 2019 Tokyo motor show, but we are yet to receive a response.
In July this year a statement from Mercedes-Benz Australia said: “Our positioning to anything that’s written in the European report... is that we do not comment on speculation.
"To your questions, all I can say is that the X-Class is a fixed component of our Mercedes-Benz Vans product portfolio for Australia. We are focused on continuing to establish the product in the Australian market.”
Despite the speculation and lower than expected sales overseas, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class has shown promise in Australia this year, with sales up by 48 per cent in the first nine months of 2019.
Indeed, the X-Class ute is the second-biggest selling model in Mercedes-Benz Australia’s commercial vehicle line-up behind the Sprinter van, though judging by the prices being advertised for so-called "demonstrator models" in the classifieds, the sales surge is believed to have been driven by substantial discounts.
A facelift was due in 2020 or 2021, however CarAdvice understands that has been postponed indefinitely and could instead mark the vehicle’s end of production date.